Play List:

1. The Rath Boys

2. The Witchfinder

3. A Madcap Prince

4. Corinne

5. The Queen of Connaught

6. The Nine Days’ Queen

7. The Mormons

8. The Shadow of the Sword

9. Lucy Brandon

10. Storm-Beaten

11. Lady Clare

[Flowers of the Forest]

12. A Sailor and His Lass

13. Bachelors

14. Constance

15. Lottie

16. Agnes

17. Alone in London

18. Sophia

19. Fascination

20. The Blue Bells of Scotland

21. Partners

22. Joseph’s Sweetheart

23. That Doctor Cupid

24. Angelina!

25. The Old Home

26. A Man’s Shadow

27. Theodora

28. Man and the Woman

29. Clarissa

30. Miss Tomboy

31. The Bride of Love

32. Sweet Nancy

33. The English Rose

34. The Struggle for Life

35. The Sixth Commandment

36. Marmion

37. The Gifted Lady

38. The Trumpet Call

39. Squire Kate

40. The White Rose

41. The Lights of Home

42. The Black Domino

43. The Piper of Hamelin

44. The Charlatan

45. Dick Sheridan

46. A Society Butterfly

47. Lady Gladys

48. The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown

49. The Romance of the Shopwalker

50. The Wanderer from Venus

51. The Mariners of England

52. Two Little Maids from School

53. When Knights Were Bold


Short Plays

Other Plays

Buchanan’s Theatrical Ventures in America

Poetry Readings





The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay

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4. When Knights Were Bold - Reviews, etc. (3)
(1910 - 1924)


[Francis Wilson in When Knights Were Bold, and below, the reverse of the postcard.]


Black and White (15 January, 1910 - p.88)

ON Monday, January 10th, Mr. Rudolf Besier’s brilliant comedy Don celebrated its hundredth performance at the Criterion Theatre. So great is still the public demand to see Don that Mr. Herbert Trench has had to find another home for it when his tenancy of the Criterion expires. He has therefore decided to move it with the entire original company to the Kingsway Theatre on Monday next. Mr. James Welch is reviewing When Knights Were Bold at the Criterion, and the famous farce celebrates its 1,100th night. These Knights are worse than those of Arabia, a series that consisted of only one thousand.



Daily Express (19 January, 1910 - p.7)

     Mr. James Welch, who opened his season on Monday at the Criterion with the eleven hundredth performance of “When Knights were Bold,” has a few interesting notes on his royal and other patrons.
     Lord Roberts, he tells me, has visited the play ten times, while her Majesty the Queen has seen the piece on four occasions.
     One morning following a visit the Queen sent down to the theatre and requested to be furnished with the manuscript of the play.
     Mr. Welch was in a fix. The play—like most farces—had been so retouched and improved, so cut and edited by author and producer that the “manuscript” was absolutely illegible.
     Yet the Queen had asked for the book, and Mr. Welch meant that she should have it the same day. So with the consent of the author, Mr. Welch recited the entire play to a typewriter, and her Majesty was able to read the “book” the same evening.



The Stage (20 January, 1910 - p.17)


     It is nearly three years since When Knights Were Bold received its London production at Wyndham’s, January 29, 1907. It ran for about a year at that theatre, and its revival in town has always proved acceptable to laughter-seeking audiences. Hence Mr. James Welch has done well in opening his season at the Criterion with “Charles Marlowe’s” fanciful, whimsical, and exceedingly funny farce showing a sort of reversion to the period and characters of “Ivanhoe.” In his old rôle of the extremely commonplace and essentially modern young baronet Sir Guy de Vere, transported in a dream 710 years back, from 1906 to 1196, Mr. Welch has still carte blanche to work his own mirth-provoking will with regard to the introduction of apparently new items of business, though, in deference to former statements that nothing in the original dialogue had been modified by the popular comedian, one must assume that the authoress of the farce, Miss Harriet Jay, is responsible for, or, acquiescingly cognisant of, such topical introductions as a Teddy-Bear allusion and make-up, a reference to Miss Maud Allan, and other things of a like nature. Elaborated, if not absolutely new, is some diverting monkey business for Mr. Welch, in the first act, and in the second, in particular, he causes Laughter to hold both his sides at Sir Guy’s perplexity at being taken back to the Good Old Times of Richard Cœur-de- Lion. But, indeed, Mr. Welch is in his characteristic and now somewhat highly coloured fashion immensely funny throughout the piece, which owes most of its long-continued success to his ingeniously amusing performance. Mr. Welch, on the present West-End revival, which opened most encouragingly on Monday, January 17, is supported by many members of the old cast, though there are a few notable changes. Miss Audrey Ford is as effectively and artistically intense as before in the mock-heroic vein as the romantic and mediæval-idead Lady Rowena, who forms such a contrast to her prosaic and slangy cousin. Much fun is once more caused by Mr. Guy Lane, Mr. Henry J. Ford, Mr. George F. Tully, and Mr. Gordon Tomkins, who re-appear, respectively, in the dual capacities of Dean and monk, modern punster and Old-Style jester, valet and retainer, and butler and seneschal. Miss Mabel Younge is at present the Hon. Mrs. Waldegrave, first played by Miss Emma Gwynne, the girls having attractive and lively representatives in Misses Maev O’Hea, Evelyn Cecil, and Peggy Kennedy. Miss Annie Chippendale is still a sprightly and vivacious Alice Barker, and Miss Daisy Cordell is again pleasantly and piquantly passionate as Sarah Isaacson. The latter’s scheming sire was originally played by Mr. Arthur Grenville, now appearing as Malvolio in Mr. Richard Flanagan’s Twelfth Night revival at the Queen’s Manchester, and the part is now acted on the accepted lines by that versatile player Mr. A. Clifton Alderson. A new Sir Brian Ballymote is that of Mr. H. K. Ayliff, who makes a good deal of his opportunities. Mr. Harry Agar Lyons is now the Herald, and the picturesque accessories and tuneful music of the scenes in the Good Old Times, capitally set forth with the aid of the minor members of Mr. Welch’s company, are further factors in the undoubted success of this revival of When Knights Were Bold.



The Illustrated London News (22 January, 1910 - p.2)


There are plays on which our public insists upon passing an independent judgment, and a case in point is “Charles Marlowe’s” droll farce, “When Knights Were Bold.” The piece is far happier in idea than in execution; the scheme was worthy of something much better than the conventional treatment given it by the author. To a dramatist of resource and historical instinct all sorts of delightful possibilities should open out at the moment he conceives the notion of plunging a modern weakling into the armour and the warlike atmosphere of mediæval times. Still, though “Charles Marlowe” has not made enough of her opportunities, she has devised a sufficient number of quaint situations to make her play one of the most popular of our day, and she has the advantage of finding in Mr. James Welch an interpreter whose unflagging spirits and comic energy have often made a poor play seem entertaining. Once more he reappears in the rôle of the degenerate Sir Guy, and makes his audience (at the Criterion) rock with laughter. Once more he has the assistance of Miss Audrey Ford and an adequate company, and once more it looks as if the piece were in for a long run.



The Sketch (26 January, 1910 - p.14)

By E. F. S. (MONOCLE.)

. . .

“When Knights Were Bold.”
     Mr. James Welch and his company may be a little late for Christmas, but will nevertheless be welcomed warmly. For “When Knights Were Bold” threatens to achieve the popularity of “Charley’s Aunt” and surpass that of “Our Boys.” Little wonder in this, seeing that her Gracious Majesty the Queen has seen it four times and read the book, whilst Lord Roberts has been an even more frequent visitor. No doubt, the greater part of the farce’s simple fun is due to Mr. James Welch, and probably he gets more out of it than could anyone else. Some of us may be rather sorry to see an actor of his fine quality spending so much of his time upon a piece quite elementary in its humour. Still, it may well be hoped that the prodigious success of the play will soon put him into a position to present himself in a drama of more subtle character.




The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (5 February, 1910 - p.7)

     An Italian version of When Knights Were Bold has been successfully produced at the Teatro Argentino, Rome.

The following pages (pp. 430-435) from Il Teatro in Italia nel 1909 by Domenico Oliva deal with Quando i cavalieri erano prodi - the Italian version of When Knights Were Bold.]

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The Mercury (12 February, 1910 - p.3)

     On Monday evening “When Knights were Bold” was revived at the Criterion, and was received with shouts of mirth by a crowded house, glad to forget, for a while and wholeheartedly, the stress of politics. But the chief reason for the renewed success of Mr. Marlowe’s farce, was, of course, the return of James Welch to the London of which he seems so typical a product. Miss Audrey Ford is once again an excellent Lady Rowena. There seems no reason why “When Knights were Bold” should not go on playing for years.



Daily Express (16 March, 1910 - p.1)



“Express” Correspondent.

                                                                                                                 BERLIN, Tuesday, March 15.

     The play “When Knights Were Bold” was produced at the Neues Theatre here to-night without exciting any enthusiasm.
     The stolid Berlin first-night audience was totally unable to appreciate the humour which has convulsed so many thousands of English theatregoers. The verdict of the Berlin critics on the play was unanimously unfavourable.
     To-morrow’s newspapers will contain many elaborate demonstrations that the English drama is utterly worthless, and that English theatregoers cannot rise above the level of pantomimes and circus humour.



The Era (13 August, 1910 - p.11)

On Monday, Aug. 8, the Farce entitled

     Mr. James Welch’s company is here with When Knights were Bold, and the house, which is filled with an appreciative audience every evening, rings with laughter. The scenery is admirably worked under the stage-management of Mr. Herbert Ranson. Sir Guy de Vere is represented by Mr. H. Langdon Bruce, who keeps the audience keenly amused. The actor goes through his trying part in a way that impresses onlookers with the idea that he is all the time thoroughly enjoying himself. Mr. Charles F. Lloyd’s Isaac Isaacson is a creditable study of a thoroughly up-to-date Israelite, and Miss Violet Noel, as the Jew’s daughter, gives an artistic representation. Mr. Percy R. Goodyer is decidedly “merry and bright” as the Hon. Charles Widdicombe, imparting considerable “go” to several scenes; Mr. Colin Johnson’s Rev. Peter Pottleberry, D.D., furnishes a careful study of quiet dignity and dry humour. Mr. Humphrey Warden struggles valiantly with the part of Sir Brian Ballymote. The Wittle of Mr. Lawrence Stevenson and the Barker of Mr. John Cecil are both capital character sketches. Miss Isla Glynne is a charming Lady Rowena Eggington, and Miss Lena Flowerdew, Miss Juliet Matheson, Miss Lee Lewis, and Miss Sadie Hope all appear to advantage. Miss Elspeth Oliphant acts with quite taking simplicity as Alice Barker, and Mr. Herbert Ranson does effective service as a Herald. The performance provides a delightful evening’s entertainment, and Mr. W. R. King, the acting-manager for the theatre, is kept busy finding room for the numerous applicants for admission. The chief piece of the evening is preceded by a comedietta, by Frank Howell Evans, entitled Milly’s Mother, in which the characters are ably sustained by Mr. Percy R. Goodyer, Mr. John Cecil, Miss Lena Flowerdew, and Miss Sadie Hope.



Daily Express (12 October, 1910 - p.7)

     Mr. James Welch is this week appearing to crowded houses in “When Knights Were Bold” at the Marlborough Theatre, Holloway. The piece has been given for 1,250 performances, and is still played to one prolonged roar of merriment.
     At the end of the year, or in January, Mr. Welch comes to the West End again, and this time with a genuine comedy. “This,” says Mr. Welch, referring to his present programme at Holloway, “is, of course, a rollicking farce; but my new piece, ‘Our Mr. Hebblewhite,’ is a legitimate comedy, and I can assure you the dialogue is of the best.
     “In it I play the part of a shopwalker—‘Our Mr. Hebblewhite’—and the first act of the piece is laid in a model cottage in a great emporium. Here in a way I meet my fate. The second and third acts are in the country. My part, I may say, is a cross between Mr. Stubbs—the bootmaker—and Mr. Carton’s Mr. Hopkinson.
     “But Hebblewhite, I must tell you, is quite a nice little chap—oh, no, not nearly such a dreadful little bounder as Hopkinson. I am certainly delighted with my new part—but it almost looks as though I could play ‘When Knights Were Bold’ forever. Look at the house to-night in this magnificent theatre—and it is the same everywhere we go.”



Music Hall and Theatre Review (15 December, 1910 - p.10)

Grateful for the Chance.
     “I am quite glad,” said Mr. Welch to a “Star” man, “to get the opportunity of playing a character part again. The theatres won’t let me play a character part—with the exception, perhaps, of Mr. Hopkinson. The music-hall gives one the opportunity—and there it is. After playing in ‘When Knights were Bold’ for 1,600 nights, these six weeks of real character playing will be a pleasant change. It is sixteen years since I last played ‘The Man in the Street.’ It was produced in front of ‘Arms and the Man’ at the Avenue Theatre.

     Mr. James Welch is the “newest recruit to the variety stage,” if one must use the popular phrase. He is this week appearing at the London Coliseum in a playlet, entitled “The Man in the Street.” This is a clever study of a street musician, suddenly called upon to play the hero. It employs the very best of Mr. Welch’s art, recalling the days when he was looked upon as a fine character actor, rather than the popular hero of farce and comedy.

     “Sixteen years ago—nearly seventeen! Great Scott!” murmured Mr. Welch, and he shook his head gravely with a sigh of mock pathos. “I’m going to have a holiday after this production,” he said, “and then, some time in the spring, I hope to give a new piece.”



The Sketch (15 February, 1911 - p.15)


The Shoreditch Observer, Hackney Express, Bethnal Green Chronicle and Finsbury Gazette (18 November, 1911 - p.8)

     “When Knights Were Bold,” correctly described as “the funniest farce on earth,” is to be played at the Marlborough Theatre, Holloway, next week, with the distinguished comedian, Mr. James Welch, in the cast.


[Click picture for larger image.]


Daily Express (7 May, 1913 - p.9)


. . .

     It will interest Mr. James Welch to know that after he had seen “When Knights Were Bold,” Mr. Stamper heard the King say, “Never laughed so much in my life.”


The Stage (18 June, 1914 - p.25)



     On Thursday evening, June 11, 1914, was revived at the Apollo “Charles Marlowe’s” three-act farce entitled:—

When Knights Were Bold.

Sir Guy de Vere
Mr. Isaac Isaacson
Hon. Charles Widdicombe
Rev. Peter Pottleberry, D.D.
Sir Brian Ballymote
A Herald
Lady Rowena Eggington
Hon. Mrs. Waldegrave
Miss Sara Isaacson
Lady Millicent Eggington
Lady Marjorie Eggington
Kate Pottleberry
Alice Barker

Mr. James Welch
Mr. C. F. Lloyd
Mr. George Desmond
Mr. Colin Johnstone
Mr. Denis J. Hogan
Mr. Stanley Yourke
Mr. George Child
Mr. Herbert Ranson
Miss Isla Glynn
Miss Mabel Younge
Miss Muriel Kidner
Miss Peggie Kennedy
Miss Queenie Thomas
Miss Stephanie Bell
Miss Violet Graham

     All those who are fond of genuine fun gained by legitimate, if at times artless, means will welcome Mr. James Welch’s revival at the Apollo of “Charles Marlowe’s” ever-enjoyable farce When Knights Were Bold, It is now some seven years ago since this bright and clever satire upon chivalry and pride of birth first set the playgoing world a-laughing and provided “Jimmy” Welch with one of his most popular parts; and, if one is to judge by the unrestrained and continuous mirth it provoked on Thursday evening among a large audience, it should retain all its essential vitality for many another seven years to come! The reason for this, of course, is that, as has been said, the fun of When Knights Were Bold is perfectly legitimate fun. Mark Twain discovered the fraud of mediæval chivalry many years ago in that most delightful of all his books “A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur”—one remembers Morgan Le Fay’s castle, where the band played what seemed to be the crude first-draft of “In the sweet by-and-by,” and the Queen had the composer hanged after dinner, with peculiar relish—while the gentleman who thinks that he is great because his grandmother was great is, like the poor, always with us! In fact, the theme of “Charles Marlowe’s” evergreen farce is so delightfully fruitful of possibilities that the piece might almost be said to have written itself, and it goes without saying that those interpreting it must of necessity be infected by its high-spirited gaiety. This is especially the case with Mr. James Welch as the irrepressible Sir Guy de Vere, a part he plays with all his accustomed animation of style and gesture. Whether as the romp in the first act, with a “code id his dose,” the valiant fighting man in the second, or the apparently insane person in the third, the popular comedian carries all before him, and shows not a trace of his recent regrettable indisposition. Miss Isla Glynn, on the other hand, is a charmingly demure Lady Rowena, being particularly successful as the white-robed novice in the second act; while it would be difficult to find a better or more attractive Sara Isaacson than that of Miss Muriel Kidner—a remark which also applied to the taking Alice Barker of Miss Violet Graham. Mr. C. F. Lloyd as the Jew, Isaac Isaacson; Mr. George Desmond as that notable “silly ass,” Charles Widdicombe; Mr. Colin Johnstone as a lifelike Dr. Pottlebury; Mr. Denis J. Hogan as the scheming Sir Brian; Mr. Stanley Yourke as a capital Wittle; Mr. George Child as an amusing Barker; Mr. Herbert Ransom as the Herald; and Miss Mabel Younge as the Hon. Mrs. Waldegrave are all admirably in the picture, the cast being cleverly completed by Miss Peggy Kennedy as Lady Millicent, Miss Queenie Thomas as Lady Marjorie, and Miss Stephanie Bell as Kate Pottlebury. In response to loud demands for a speech on Thursday evening Mr. Welch stepped forward and said “Dear Boys and Girls, thank you so much. It is so nice to be with you all again”—a sentiment which should be uppermost at the Apollo for many weeks to come.



The Illustrated London News (20 June, 1914 - p.2)


When a piece has reached its two-thousandth performance, as “When Knights were Bold” did on Thursday of last week—on which occasion Mr. James Welch revived it at the Apollo—any comment on either its merits or its demerits is surely superfluous. It is enough to say that the popular comedian was warmly received on making his reappearance in London as the bewildered knight, Guy de Vere, and that among the company which helped to render “Charles Marlowe’s” farce once more acceptable were Miss Stephanie Bell and Miss Isla Glynn. Obviously its attractions have far from waned.



The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (20 June, 1914 - p.15)

     “WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD.”—This is one of the popular successes, the reason for which can be stated with confidence and in two words. The words are James Welch. Of course, we have to thank the author, “Charles Marlowe,” for having refrained from adapting from the French, and for having shown that you can on occasion make merry with other subjects than adultery; but I should be nervous about When Knights Were Bold if Mr. Welch were not the Knight. He returns to the stage as light-hearted as ever. he sneezes and he snuffles and he capers about the sofa, and he scatters mustard and spills the whiskey, and larks with the armour and treats the middle ages with contempt. Any happy thought that comes into his head he raps out on the moment, whether it be suitable to the occasion or not, and whatever he does or says is right, for he has the gift and the charm of complete spontaneity. In the play he has to be, and, in fact, he is, a large—and indeed a not so very large—baby just out for a holiday, and letting itself go in a riot of sheer nonsense, and he manages to make everybody else as happy as he seems to be himself. To ask why he is funny where another would be merely tiresome would be as futile as to question why a rose smells like a rose. It is in the nature of Mr. Welch to be supremely funny, and there’s an end of it. Our stage is very much the richer for his return, and he was probably wise in choosing When Knights Were Bold with which to begin. It is neat and it is English, and it is a very cheery piece of nonsense over which to spend a merry evening. There is little in it for anybody but Mr. Welch to do, but I fancy that there will be very little complaint about that—except perhaps among the others who have so little to do.



The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (27 June, 1914 - p.24)


The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (4 July, 1914 - p.29)


The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (18 July, 1914 - p.18)


The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (16 January, 1915 - p.13)




The Staffordshire Weekly Sentinel (16 October, 1915 - p.8)

     HANLEY THEATRE ROYAL.—After an absence of several years the theatregoers of the district have this week an opportunity of renewing acquaintance at the Hanley Theatre Royal with “When Knights were Bold,” one of the most farcical comedies of the modern stage. The company which is presenting the piece at the Royal has been organised by Mr. James Welch, and sent on tour under the control of Mr. Bromley Challenor.



The Daily Mirror (24 January, 1916 - p.9)



The Cheltenham Looker-On (19 February, 1916 - p.10)


     The first three days of the week saw that screamingly funny farcical comedy, When Knights were Bold, presented at the local Theatre by Mr. James Welch’s Company. The way in which some of the best jokes and most humorous situations were anticipated revealed the fact that among Monday night’s audience there were not a few who were renewing acquaintance with an old favourite. The convulsive and continuous laughter of those present, however, was evidence that the play was being witnessed by many for the first time, and we make bold to say they would not have missed the fun for anything. The rich vein of humour which the playwright (“Charles Marlowe”) has so skilfully worked depends for full appreciation on the part played by the young Sir Guy de Vere, who, a modernist to the tips of his fingers, is not even respectful much less venerating, to the dead past in which his ancestors gained renown in battle and honour in rule. Thrown back into that past in a dream, Sir Guy has perforce to act the part of his progenitor who reigned 720 years ago, and the humour of the situation lies in the fact that, while dealing with men and women and the conditions of things generally in the twelfth century, he is embarrassed with his knowledge and experience of life in the twentieth. This dream act reaches its climax when Sir Guy dons the armour of his ancestor to fight Sir Bryan Ballymore for the hand of Rowena and when, like David of old, in his encounter with Goliath, he discards all such adventitious aids and floors his rival, encased cap à pie in armour, with one or two fine right and left punches on the mask. The humour of the dream scene is carried into the final act, when, with well-feigned madness, Sir Guy lays about him with a gigantic sword and gains Rowena by an exhibition of boldness and bravery which satisfied even her standard of what the past requires of the present. Sir Guy was very cleverly impersonated by Mr. Bromley Challoner, who kept the action of the play going at a rare pace. He was very gracefully supported by Miss Marjorie Bellairs as Rowena, and others who stood out as exceptionally well drawn characters were Mr. Geo. Child as the Dean and Peter the Monk, Miss R. Thornbury as the Hon. Mrs. Waldegrave, Mr. C. F. Lloyd as Isaacson the Jew, Miss Hilda Wardorf as his daughter Sarah, Mr. George Fytche as Barker, Mr. Tom Kayne as Sir Bryan Ballymore and Mr. F. Westlake as the Hon. C. Widdicombe. It might be added here that the author “Charles Marlowe,” is Miss Harriett Jay, the well-known actress, novelist, and playwright.



The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (10 March, 1917 - p.11)


Daily Express (Thursday, 12 April, 1917 - p.3)



     Mr. James Welch, the actor, died on Tuesday night at Ringwood, New Forest, after a lingering illness. His age was fifty-two, and he had been thirty years on the stage. He will be deeply regretted, both for his fine personal qualities and for his great talents as a comedian.
     He had the most compelling of all stage gifts, the ability to command “the laughter that is akin to tears.” In that respect he could worthily be compared with the late John L. Toole. “Jimmy” Welch’s pathos was just as convincing as his laughter—and that was invariably uproarious. Nobody who saw him in “When Knights were Bold,” the mock-historical farce in which he acted more than a thousand times, is ever likely to forget the inimitable humour of his Sir Guy de Vere.
     That play was his greatest popular success, but Mr. Welch’s art was by no means confined to the domain of bustling farce. In his early days he acted many varied parts in Wilson Barrett’s dramas and tragedies, and later he made an enviable reputation in Ibsen plays and the comedies of Bernard Shaw.
     Thousands of playgoers will remember Mr. Welch for his comical cold in “When Knights were Bold.” It arose from a real cold. The audience roared at his wheezing and sneezing. They thought it was part of the play.



The Sketch (18 April, 1917 - p.34)


The Stage (15 November, 1917 - p.14)

“When Knights were Bold.”

     The only change of bill in the West End this week will be the revival on Saturday afternoon, at the Kingsway, of “When Knights were Bold.” Ever since its production at Wyndham’s on January 29, 1907, Harriett Jay’s farce has enjoyed an immense amount of popularity, and has had several revivals in London. Criterion, January 17, 1910; Apollo, June 11, 1914; New, February 8, 1915. The popularity of the piece in the provinces as well as in London was, of course, largely due to the highly comic interpretation of the character of Sir Guy de Vere by the late James Welch. Mr. Welch played the part continuously from January, 1907, until July of the following year, and he subsequently went on tour, acting the character, almost without a break, for the next three years. Mr. Bromley Challenor, who will be the Sir Guy at the Kingsway, has appeared in the character for one thousand five hundred times. Miss Marjorie Bellairs will be the Lady Rowena.



[After the death of James Welch on 10th April 1917, Sir Guy de Vere’s armour was passed on to Bromley Challenor, who continued to play the role until 1932. Obituaries of both actors and the report of a 1917 court case over the rights to the play, are available in the When Knights Were Bold - Miscellanea section.]



The Times (19 November, 1917 - p.11)




Sir Guy de Vere, Bt.
Isaac Isaacson
Hon. Charles Widdicombe
Rev. Peter Pottlebury, D.D.
Sir Brian Ballymote
Lady Rowena Eggington
Hon. Mrs. Waldegrave
Miss Sarah Isaacson
Lady Millicent Eggington
Alice Barker

Mr. E. T. RAD

     It might perhaps have been thought that When Knights were Bold would hardly have survived Mr. James Welch, so dependent did it seem to be upon his peculiar personality and impish fun. But it is as true on the stage as elsewhere that il n’y a pas d’homme nécessaire, and Mr. Bromley Challenor, though he is not Mr. Welch, has a personality and a fun of his own, enough at any rate to keep the farce moving and the audience laughing. Indeed, the audience on Saturday was so obliging as to laugh loudly not only at the old jokes but at the rough-and-tumble tomfoolery—a circumstance which, however it might puzzle the philosophers from Hobbes to Bergson who have analysed laughter, undoubtedly justified the revival of the farce.



The Stage (22 November, 1917 - p.18)



     There has been another change of bill and of management at the house in Great Queen Street, which was re-opened on Saturday, November 17, by Mr. Bromley Challenor, with a welcome and apparently acceptable revival of that piece admirably calculated to drive away dull care, “When Knights were Bold.” Mr. B. Challenor, whose business manager at the Kingsway is Mr. Yourke Challenor, has had a lengthy and successful association with this popular farce of “Charles Marlowe” (Harriett Jay), for he has been touring for a considerable period with this quasi-burlesque of “Ivanhoe,” and has, we understand, appeared as many as 1,500 times in the late James Welch’s old rôle of Sir Guy de Vere. That very modern and ultra-slangy descendant of the doughty Knights of Beechwood Towers is played, with some of the familiar “Jimmy Welch” tones and attitudes , by Mr. Bromley Challenor, but also with many original touches and diverting bits of acrobatic or semi-pantomimic bits of business, as well as with the introduction of numerous topical hits, such as references to Tanks, the Entertainments Tax, Sugar Cards, and so forth. This may be held justifiable in the case of an old favourite that has been played as frank farce for years past, although on the present revival the romantic element, which forms the all-important factor of designed contrast, has by no means been slurred over. Mr. B. Challenor is thus showing himself to West End audiences to be an energetic, adroit, and well-equipped comedian, and, besides giving a genuinely successful impersonation of Sir Guy, he is to be credited with the excellent and carefully-controlled production of the play, with the aid of the stage management of Mr. S. J. Chapman, who also makes a picturesque and stalwart exponent of the Herald. The effect of the ensemble is enhanced by the painstaking rendering of the vocal items and by the duly old- time costumes and accessories.
     Mr. Bromley Challenor is being supported by several of his former touring colleagues, notably, Miss Marjorie  Bellairs, a Lady Rowena Eggington gently romantic and winsome in the scenes of the present day and full of spirit and fire in that “Dream of Ye Goode Old Times” on the Battlements at Beechwood after 721 years have “passed  backwards.” The transformations in the various characters are indicated with skill also by the other members of the cast at the Kingsway. Mr. Annesley Hely who has played the part on tour is quite in the picture both as the card-sharping Sir Brian of the opening and the finale and as the blustering, bold, bad Baron of 1196, the date now assigned to Act 2; and similarly, the variations in the Jew and his daughter are brought out well by Mr. Ernest Legh, as Isaac Isaacson and the tortured Isaac of York, and by Miss Talbot-Daniel, an alluring Sarah. In like manner, the Abbey-restoring Dean and the persecuting Peter the Monk are differentiated ably, and with contrasted blandness and vigour, by that experienced player Mr. Edward Y. Rae; and capital studies of Charles Widdicombe, jester amateur and professional, Barker, dignified butler and cringing Seneschal, and Wittle, in his varied manifestations, are presented by Mr. Eric Howard, Mr. George Fytche, and Mr. James Craig. Miss Ruby Warneford is pleasingly vivacious as Alice Barker, new and old styles; Miss Violet Ellicott is stately and impressive as Mrs. Waldegrave and the fugitive Abbess; and Misses Elsye Gorse, Vanda Lalroi, and Joan Charteris act agreeably as the younger girls with whom Sir Guy disports himself, the Ladies Millicent and Marjorie, and Kate Pottlebury. Thus revived, “When Knights were Bold” was received with warm favour at both performances on Saturday.



The Illustrated London News (24 November, 1917 - p.34)


THE most obstinate success of its day, “When Knights were Bold,” is associated unforgettably with the memory of James Welch. His performances in the rôle of that irresistible though timorous Knight, Sir Guy de Vere, must have run into four figures. But though he, alas! is no longer at hand to interpret its humours, “Charles Marlowe’s” farcical fantasy was much too entertaining a thing to keep on the shelf, especially as we can rely on the services of a comedian who even in Mr. Welch’s lifetime challenged comparisons in the part and acquitted himself well. Mr. Bromley Challenor and his supporters, encouraged by the golden opinions they have won in the provinces and the outer ring of London, have now moved into the West End, with the result that the theatre of their choice, the Kingsway, becomes once more a home of mirth. Mr. Challenor obtains the best of female backing from Miss Jean Charteris and Miss Marjorie Bellairs. So that the revival gives every promise of enjoying a good run.



The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (24 November, 1917 - p.14)

     “WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD.”—I looked in for a while at the Kingsway last week and found a new Sir Guy de Vere frolicking where once frolicked Mr. James Welch. It was Mr. Bromley Challenor, who occasionally recalled the great original in voice and manner—probably nobody could help doing that—and for the rest had his own ideas of the part. They were laudable, but uninspired. It was what I may call fair No. 1 Touring Company work. With Mr. Welch away the little farce is a reasonably effective method of getting laughter by simple means. Spilling the mustard intended for the bath is now a more prominent feature than the character of Sir Guy; and the rest of the play has developed, as might be expected, on the same lines. It had shown a tendency to that direction while Mr. Welch was alive; but there was real character in little Sir Guy then. It was not merely that he has a very good imitation of a bad cold in the head, or got simple effects from the contrast between a young man in evening dress and the inhabitants of a mediæval castle. He jumped about the furniture and made great play with early blank verse, and wrestled with Isaac of York and flirted with the kitchen wench, and caused much amusement thereby; but that was not by any means the whole of the story. Mr. Welch was wistful and vividly alive, and had in his being a curiously tender humour which bubbled over spontaneously and irresistibly; and these things, and not horseplay, were the making of “When Knights were Bold.” However, it is not fair when considering Mr. Challenor to contemplate exclusively memories of Mr. Welch. It is the sort of thing that happens on the first occasion when a play is seen without the player who made it; and it is perhaps inevitable. It is a risk which his successor has to face; and by bringing his company to London Mr. Challenor challenges the comparison, and is no doubt prepared to face it. But I am afraid that he will not gain much by doing so. This rendering of the play will no doubt do well enough where Mr. Welch was never seen. It is full of energy and all the usual points are made. It wins much laughter—particularly that mustard incident, which is rendered the more acutely humorous by much spilling of whiskey; and Mr. Challenor himself does everything that is necessary for an unsophisticated romp. But it is, after all, a touring affair, and nothing that he or his company do can hide that fact. It is a thing for conventional phrases of polite praise.
                                                                                                                                                           J. W.



The Sketch (28 November, 1917 - p.34)


     THE revival of “When Knights Were Bold,” at the Kingsway Theatre, reminds one sadly of the death of poor “Jimmy” Welch, a brilliant actor, whose career is a curious instance of waste; for he was generally engaged in parts which gave nothing like full scope to his remarkable gifts, though it must be added that he played them better than anybody else. Miss Harriet Jay’s simple farce, now nearly eleven years old, was, of course, a case in point: he got a great deal out of its simple humours, and added no little to them by his peculiar gifts, wherefore he was able to give immense enjoyment to a host of playgoers; but one can wish he had been employed in finer work. “When Knights Were Bold” is well chosen for revival at present: it is free from the offence found in several classes of farce, and full of fun for those who want to laugh without knowing why. There is even a kind of curious modernity, due to the strange return to armour in latter-day fighting. No need to make comparisons between present and former casts. Mr. Bromley Challoner, in the part of Sir Guy, plays cleverly with abundant energy, and earns lots of laughter.


[Mr. Bromley Challenor.]


Daily Express (10 March, 1920 - p.5)


     Mr. Bromley Challenor, of the Scala Theatre, who has gained such renown for his performance of Sir Guy de Vere in “When Knights Were Bold,” is not the Mr. Frank Stanley Bromley-Challenor who was mentioned in the Divorce Court on Monday last.
     Few farces have gained such deserved popularity as “When Knights Were Bold,” and few actors have scored such a success as Mr. Bromley Challenor has done in London and the provinces, where all records have been broken—even that of Mr. James Welch, who first played the part. “When Knights Were Bold” reached its 2,500th performance under Mr. Bromley Challenor’s management at the Scala Theatre a few weeks ago, and Mr. Challenor and Miss Marjorie Bellairs have each appeared in the piece more than 2,400 times.



The Derby Daily Telegraph (19 June, 1920 - p.2)



     That funniest of all farcical comedies, “When Knights Were Bold,” will pay another visit to the Grand Theatre next week. The play is one of those evergreens that always retain popularity, for in spite of the years that have elapsed since James Welch first took London by storm as Sir Guy de Vere, “When Knights Were Bold” is as popular as ever it was. In next week’s production Mr. Guy Basil will play Sir Guy de Vere, the diminutive baronet who dreamt that he lived 723 years ago, and Miss Maisie Stuart makes a delightful heroine as Lady Rowena Eggington. The supporting cast is a very strong one, the play being produced by Mr. Bromley Challenor, who, it will be remembered, appeared several times in Derby in this and other productions. Mr. Challenor is now taking the place of the late lamented Mr. Welch on the London stage, where the play has enjoyed a practically continuous run since its inception.



The Times (29 June, 1920 - p.14)



. . .    Yet mediocre as is much of the summer fare provided, the opening of the season in Berlin has been greeted with remarkable enthusiasm in many theatres, and numerous triumphs have been scored. They are chiefly the individual triumphs of a few footlight favourites, and it says much for their art and their temperament that they have succeeded in winning over a hypercritical public frequently in spite of the poor standard of play in which they have been employed. Much of the acting is undoubtedly first-rate, and one can see these popular mirth-provokers in a great variety of German and foreign pieces, among which an ever-increasing number of English comedies are being revived.


     For the time has returned when your Berliner, discreetly forgetting that he ever uttered a “Gott strafe England,” washes again with English soap, cultivates an English vocabulary, and laughs again over Arms and the Man, Charley’s Aunt, and The Importance of Being Earnest. German critics never tire of gibing at the type of stage wit they consider specifically English—the humour still mainly connected with the Briton who boxes, chews an enormous pipe, mouths his words, drinks whisky-soda, and makes wagers about everything. But critics are inhuman beings the world over; and the Briton arriving in the German capital to-day may derive a degree of consolation from finding English comedies attracting big and appreciative audiences in half a dozen different playhouses nightly.
     All Berlin is at present tittering over the merry escapades of Sir Guy de Vere in Marlowe’s well-known burlesque, When Knights were Bold (Die goldene Ritterzeit). The audience at the Theater des Westens shakes with laughter from start to finish at the young aristocrat who has nothing of the dignity of the English lord or the romanticism of his ancestors, at his excursion into the Middle Ages, in a 20th-century dinner jacket and with only one cigarette in his case, at his donning a coat-of-mail and duelling with the rival Sir Brian, and, above all, at his return to realities, still declaiming the rhymed nonsense of A.D. 1200, and effectively demonstrating to his vexatious family the difference between the chivalry of the past and the chivalry of the present.
     It would be difficult to imagine a more irresistible performance, for the rôle of Sir Guy is played by Max Pallenberg, the wonderful little Austrian who, with a sudden leap to fame, electrified the first audiences of The Chocolate Soldier, Autumn Manœvres, and a dozen other Viennese successes. Everything funny in Germany to-day seems to centre in Pallenberg. His name is a household word; his imitators and parodists in suburban vaudevilles and provincial cabarets are legion. Funniest of funny men in summer, but a gifted character actor in winter, with the comedian’s proverbial ambition to become a great tragedian and with far more likelihood of realizing his ambition than the majority of comedians so disposed, he is inclined to apologize for his reputation for drollery, and is just now, they say, undecided whether his next part should be Shylock in a Reinhardt representation of The Merchant of Venice or that other Jewish acquaintance of ours, the junior partner in Potash and Perlmutter.



The Daily Mail (28 September, 1920 - p.5)


     Armour worn by the late Mr. James Welch in “When Knights were Bold” was valued with stage furniture as a £10 asset at the London Bankruptcy Court yesterday when creditors met under a receiving order made against Mr. James Bromley Challenor, actor and theatrical manager, of Porchester-gardens, Bayswater, W.
     Mr. Challenor, who attributed his failure to the Adelphi Enterprises, Limited, going into voluntary liquidation, estimated his liabilities at £5,000, and assets consisted of scenery valued at £100. The armour, he said, has been very much knocked about and is riveted all over. “I have worn it 2,000 times myself. It looks all right from the front.”
     The case was left with the Official Receiver for administration in bankruptcy.



The Daily Herald (28 September, 1920 - p.2)


Looked All Right, But Held
Together With Rivets

     The creditors of Mr. James Bromley Challenor—who perpetrated the success achieved by James Welch in that popular play “When Knights Were Bold”—met at the London Bankruptcy Court yesterday under a receiving order against the well-known actor.
     Mr. E. A. Bell, who appeared for the debtor, said that his client was persuaded by Adelphi Enterprises, Ltd., to change the sphere of his activities from the old play, “When Knights Were Bold,” into something more modern in the shape of a play called “Society, Ltd.” In fact, it might have been “Society, Ltd., in Liquidation,” since it ran for three weeks only.
     Mr. Challenor estimated his liabilities at £5,000, and the assets consisted of scenery, valued at £100, and stage furniture, including armour, £10.
     The Official Receiver: That seems a very modest estimate for the armour?
     Mr. Challenor: It has been very much knocked about and is riveted all over. (Laughter.)
     “Is it the same armour that Mr. James Welch wore?” inquired the Official Receiver.
     “Yes,” replied the debtor, “and I have worn it 2,000 times myself. It looks all right from the front.” (Laughter.)
     The debtor added that his present position was entirely due to the failure of Adelphi Enterprises, Lt. He owed nothing in connection with “When Knights Were Bold,” which was still running.
     The case was left in the hands of the Official Receiver for administration in bankruptcy.



The Globe (8 December, 1920 - p.3)

A Romantic Drama
     Probably the three most successful farces ever written are “The Private Secretary,” “Charley’s Aunt,” and “When Knights Were Bold.” It is a coincidence that all three are to be revived this Christmas.
     “When Knights Were Bold” was probably suggested to Robert Buchanan by Mark Twain’s story, “A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur.” In its original form it was a romantic drama; but the public declined to take it seriously, and the late James Welch, distressed by his losses, took the bold course of turning it into a comic play.
     The actors and actresses entered heartily into the joke, and the “go-as-you-please” habit grew on them. The result was that “When Knights Were Bold” quickly recouped its losses and proceeded to make a fortune.



The Daily Herald (9 December, 1920 - p.2)


Mr. Bromley Challenor’s
Run of ill Luck

     The examination was concluded at London Bankruptcy Court yesterday of Mr. James Bromley Challenor, actor and theatrical manager, who had lodged a statement of affairs showing liabilities of £4,419, and assets valued at £142.
     In addition to “When Knights Were Bold,” Mr. Challenor said he had produced:—“Cupid in the Caravan,” on which he lost £1,300 in one week; on “The Yellow Cockade” he lost £500, on “The Man of the Future” he lost £350, and on “Do Be Careful” he made a profit of £400.
     Mr. Challenor attributed his position to the liquidation of a company which guaranteed him against loss on his tenancy of the Scala Theatre. The company, he said, owed him £4,394.



The Times (11 December, 1920 - p.8)


     Revivals of farcical comedies, with thousands and thousands of past performances as their guarantee to amuse, are becoming a popular feature of the Christmas entertainment season. When Knights Were Bold, presented at the Duke of York’s Theatre last night, is not of the oldest vintage, but it has a lengthening record of success, and with a bad cold and the “good old days” as leading themes it seems peculiarly suited to appeal to audiences at this time of the year. Mr. Bromley Challenor is again the Sir Guy de Vere of the play, and is excellent all through. The character rather lends itself to “gagging,” and Mr. Challenor falls before temptation, but without spoiling his effects. Mr. Sydney Paxton and Miss Madge Compton are prominent for good work among the other members of the company.



The Times (20 December, 1921 - p.8)



     So many modern audiences have seen this play and made their comments upon it that the Lady Rowena, charming though she is, can no longer be allowed a monopoly in romance and miracle. He must face an Elizabethan audience; she—with a blessing upon the change in manners that changed the sex of her impersonator—must win the ear that attended Wycherley and look out an instant across the blur of periwigs that bobbed to the wit of Sheridan. Allow to these ghostly audiences that knowledge of topical allusions which we ourselves possess; preserve in them no strangeness but the strangeness of their own critical spirit. What then would they have said of this play that fills a theatre year by year, of Mr. Bromley Challenor’s untiring energy, of the Jester, the jousting, and the Jew? Would they have sat stolid and amazed? Would they have laughed? Would they have early departed?
     But even for the Lady Rowena’s sake we dare not venture so deeply into the psychology of the drama upon so slight an occasion. Yet, surely those audiences would have in common a particular astonishment which is a key to the play’s popularity in our own day. For the spirit of When Knights Were Bold is the spirit born in certain country house parties in this age of impatience, a spirit that drives men to the desperate expedient of noise, and women, tired of wit, to the sewing up of pyjamas. Extravagance our ancestors knew; romping they knew; laughter they knew better perhaps than we shall ever have time to learn it. But they were strangers to the amusement that we draw so happily from repetitions, from clumsiness for its own sake. They had not the gift of silliness.
     Mr. Challenor is greatly gifted. He makes of Sir Guy de Vere a fool so uproarious that the critical voice of Tudor or Stuart would be lost in the uproar. Having chosen his task, he performs it without faltering, and—greatest gift of all—with a seeming delight that influences the whole cast. Miss Enid Cooper, as the romantic Lady Rowena, would have certainly won the Restoration heart, and Mr. R. Tippett, as Wittle, would have earned a chuckle from the Elizabethans. But the Georgians, whose mentality was of rapiers rather than of wooden swords, would have climbed, perhaps, a little sadly into the chairs that bore them homeward.



The Stage (22 December, 1921 - p.16)



     Harriet Jay’s long-popular piece bobs up serenely nearly every Christmas season, and this year its local habitation is to be found at the Kingsway, where it is being presented, twice daily, by Mr. W. A. Evans. Mr. Bromley Challenor resumes, for the nth time, his pleasantly familiar rôle of Sir Guy de Vere, to a new Lady Rowena in that of Miss Enid Cooper, a niece of Miss Margaret Cooper, it is stated, who is pretty, graceful, and charming, and plays with much spirit in the, as ever, picturesquely presented second act, on the Battlements, A.D. 1196. Herein Mr. Challenor, who has abated nothing of the acrobatic exploits and really “monkey tricks” that have latterly marked his side-splitting embodiment of Sir Guy, is notably good in showing the baronet’s passing from the manners of modern days into the true mediæval atmosphere, and he thus continues to differentiate skilfully his performance from that given of old by the late James Welch. The company now supporting Mr. Challenor include several members long conversant with their rôles,  Mr. G. F. Lloyd, for instance, presenting a by no means conventionally Hebraic assumption of Isaac Isaacson, whose daughter, Sara has an exponent new, we think, in Miss Doris Johnstone, notably good in the attempted love-making with Sir Guy and as the captive with dishevelled hair of “Ye Goode Olde Times.” Mr. Dennis Wyndham makes once again a specious and sufficiently truculent personage of Sir Brian, worsted so ignominiously in the combat with the at last roused descendant of the de Veres; Mr. George Childs begins by being quietly demure as the Peter Pottlebury of the present time; and capital and genuinely diverting work is done in the contrasted phases of their rôles by Mr. Leslie Francis, especially funny when Charles Widdicombe becomes the family jester; by Mr. George Fytche as Barker, butler, and Seneschal, and by Mr. R. Tippett as Wittle. The Herald is embodied befittingly by Mr. David Kemp, stage manager for Mr. Evans, whose general manager is Mr. Archie W. Chappell. Miss Violet Ellicott is seen again as a stately and imposing Mrs. Waldegrave, the impersonation of the Abbess being particularly excellent; Lady Millicent and Lady Marjorie have agreeable exposition from Misses Joan Charteris and Leslie Birks; and Kate Pottlebury and the coyly amenable Alice Barker are also represented pleasantly by Misses Sheila Birks and Ruby Warneford. Brigata Bucalossi’s tuneful music makes the due effect in the ensemble of this merry farce as rendered by the orchestra under the direction of Mr. J. H. Squire.


[The front page of The Worthing Herald of 22nd April, 1922, featuring an article about Bromley Challenor’s visit to the town with “When Knights Were Bold” and also a review of Fred Paul’s film version of The Lights of Home. The latter was showing at Worthing’s Dome Cinema, which, I’m happy to report, is still in business.]



The Times (19 December, 1923 - p.8)



     When Knights Were Bold seems by now to have become the hardiest of all our “hardy annuals” at Christmas time, and this year Charles Marlowe’s farcical frolic is again as full of life as ever, in spite of its advanced theatrical age. When Mr. James Welch died it was promptly assumed that When Knights Were Bold would die with him, but at once Mr. Bromley Challenor came along, showed that he could worthily wear the preposterous armour that Mr. Welch had discarded, and made a new success of what had seemed to be a played-out part.
     Mr. Challenor is still as buoyant and as humorous as ever, and always manages to suggest that Sir Guy de Vere palls as little on him as it does on his audience. On Monday night, at the Criterion Theatre, the time-honoured jokes and “business” caused as much laughter as ever—and deserved it. Miss Enid Cooper is again an attractive Lady Rowena, and the remainder of the company enter into the fun of the thing with great spirit. It is nearly 17 years since the piece was first produced by Mr. Welch, and nearly half that time since Mr. Challenor stepped into his shoes. This latest revival seems to postpone to a very distant date the time when it will be necessary to leave one letter out of the titles and write as its epitaph “When Knights Were Old.”



Programme for the Criterion Theatre, December, 1923.



The Tech (Massachusetts Institute of Technology newspaper Vol. 44, No. 30: 29 May, 1924 - p.4)


     Mr. E. E. Clive, playing the part of “Sir Guy De Vere,” the happy and care-free heir to the De Vere estates, is the factor in making the presentation of the charming little farce “When Knights Were Bold” at the Copley Theater this week, one of the most delightful comedies seen in Boston stock productions for quite a while. The play is in three acts and is written by Charles Marlowe.
     Sir Guy has heard so much about the accomplishments of his ancestors during the middle ages that while slightly “under the weather” he dreams that he is master of his estates back in the year 1197. The result is that his friends think him crazy, but incidentally he defeats the intentions of Sir Bryan Ballymote to marry the charming Rowena whom he  loves. Mr. Clive is a very versatile actor and provides excellent comedy throughout the play. He is equally pleasing in and out of armor, drunk or sober and carefree or serious.
     Katherine Standing as “Lady Rowena” is a beautiful and charming heroine. The remainder of the cast play their parts well but are necessarily subordinated to Mr. Clive and Miss Standing. This is the last appearance of Henry Jewett’s Repertory Company at the Copley Theater. They will be seen next season at more commodious quarters in the Arlington Theater in Arlington Square.
                                                                                                                                                       C. E. M.



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